When people discuss the hardest part of authorship, it is often said that it is far easier to have an idea than it is to consistently put pen to paper and write it into fruition. In other words, the tedious task of long-haul writing is the most difficult part of creating a story.
However, to me the overlooked difficulty comes after this, in the editing stage.
I find it inexplicably challenging to change my writing once it has been put down on the page. Self-editing rarely reaps much change for me. Perhaps this is because I understand exactly why it felt crucial to choose my existing tone and sentence structure and my thinking is unlikely to have changed. But it is when someone else edits my work that I find it most excruciating.
This is true even of non-creative writing.
Recently, when my girlfriend was editing my CV (very helpfully, I may add) I had to force myself to stand outside and avoid my laptop – such is my urge to resist changes to my writing.
When it comes to creative writing, I find this even harder.
A poetry writing seminar I had last term involved the professor and other students in the group critiquing one of my poems. Ludicrously, I felt their comments almost physically, and had to restrain my self from responding at every turn.
I suppose such dramatic responses are to be expected from the type of person who would attend a poetry writing seminar at all. But I do wonder if this strength of feeling regarding editing stems from something more universal in writers.
There is something deeply personal encapsulated in writing, especially of the creative kind. The page becomes an unself-conscious place of expression which much of the time does not expect an audience, much less a critical one. In such a context it is no wonder that useful and well-meaning advice can feel like a personal attack, even when our logical brains know it is anything but.
However, what can be forgotten in all this sensitivity is the value of a detailed and thoughtful new perspective on work that is too close to home to filter through ourselves. A fresh pair of eyes is able to appreciate the beauty in your work that you can no longer see, as well its flaws.
It may be painful, but being open to the opinion of others allows our work to be more nuanced, more universal and better thought through; an open window lets in both sun and rain. (Note from editor: this ending is too pretentious).
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